Masked Leeds hammer gang threatened lone woman in her own home before stealing £15,000 worth of valuables

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A cruel masked gang raised a hammer to a terrified woman in own home after forcing her to put her hand on a counter, and then counted down from three.

The raiders burst into the home on Woodland Hill in Whitkirk, demanding money, before eventually getting away with £15,000 worth of goods.

But before fleeing, they put the lone female through an “unimaginable” traumatic experience, dragging her around by her hair, punching her repeatedly to the head, gagging her and putting a T-shirt over her head, before threatening to break her hand with the hammer.

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The targeted robbery happened on the evening of November 18, 2021, but only one of the culprits, 40-year-old Joel Lee, has been caught. He was given an extended 12-year jail sentence at Leeds Crown Court this week.

Lee's DNA was found on a hammer used to threaten the fearful woman. (pic by WYP.)Lee's DNA was found on a hammer used to threaten the fearful woman. (pic by WYP.)
Lee's DNA was found on a hammer used to threaten the fearful woman. (pic by WYP.)

The woman, who was alone in the house, had been making tea in her kitchen when the four-strong gang, wearing balaclavas and gloves, burst in through the unlocked back door.

Becoming increasingly agitated by her denials of having cash in the property, it culminated in the gang producing the hammer and making threats.

They eventually stole designer bags, £400 in cash, an empty safe, an Armani watch, an iPhone, the house’s CCTV security system and a Jaguar and a VW both parked on the driveway.

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They left the hammer behind and after being forensically examined, it was found to contain the profile of Lee, formerly of Claremont Terrace, Armley.

CCTV also caught Lee parking up in one of the woman’s cars near to where he lived, getting out and locking it. When he was arrested he claimed he was offered money and drugs to park the car. He was found with the sets of keys for the cars.

After the DNA matched him, Lee admitted a charge of robbery.

In a victim impact statement read out by prosecutor Bahir Ahmed, the victim said: “I genuinely thought I was going to die. There are still three people who got away with this. It has had an horrific impact on me.”

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Lee has 20 previous convictions for 47 offences, including thefts and burglary and a conspiracy to rob a Co-op shop in Huddersfield in 2020 in which £60,000 was stolen. He was only recently jailed for five years for the Co-op job.

Mitigating, James Lake said that Lee should be given credit for his guilty plea, sparing the victim “prolonged agony”. He said: “He is disgusted by his own behaviour, and is shameful and regretful. He wishes, through me, the express his apologies.”

Judge Ray Singh told Lee: “She genuinely thought she was going to die, and that is not an over exaggeration. The bruises may have gone but psychologically, she still lives in fear.

“It was just another level. She knows there are three individuals out there who have never been arrested.”

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Given that Lee’s DNA was found on the hammer, Judge Singh said it was likely Lee that had used the hammer to threaten the woman, but said all four men were equally guilty.

Lee’s sentence is made up of eight years’ jail, with a four-year extended licence period. He was told the custodial part of the sentence will only begin once he has served his current sentence.